Story 20

From Skeptic
to True Believer

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

To be honest, I thought I was very happy with my life before F3. I’m married to an amazing woman and have 3 beautiful and healthy children. I’m blessed to have a large family with the majority of them in town. Things seemed to fall into place with nearly everything; the one exception was since kids came into the picture (10 years prior), I had not spent much time focusing on my health and fitness. This was further slowed by needing knee surgery to repair some injuries from years on the basketball court. After seeing some aging family members run into health troubles, I thought I needed to make the change now so I can be around for my kids down the road.

I was told about F3 from Matt “Stark” Yarder, and like many, I was skeptical and gave many reasons why I couldn’t join. His pitch and persistence had me eventually coming out in the “gloom” to join a group of guys I’ve never met before to perform “The Murph!” 

This was the first real exercising I had done since being injured and having surgery nearly 18 months prior. I will forever remember looking up at the sky during the pull ups with the rain hitting me in the face thinking, “What the &^%$ am I doing out here?” 

I remember I was sore for days and still not sure I was going to come back, but after a few posts, I started to understand that there was much more to F3 than just the fitness benefit. Hearing the stories of so many great guys in my community, with all of us working to improve ourselves for our families, community, and our impact during our time here was moving. 

The accountability and genuine support from the group was unlike anything I’ve seen before. I mentioned the other day at my first solo Q that two months ago I could barely think about doing a workout much less leading one! This group and this community have driven me to step outside my comfort zone and given me a gift and an opportunity to be a part of something great!

I find myself picking up various pieces of advice from the group that has helped me personally, professionally, and physically. The concept really has shown that whether you are a marathon runner or an aging out of shape former athlete, F3 allows you to be challenged and improve yourself. I am not one of the smaller guys in the group and was very hesitant to think I could fit in with the workout. I’ve been amazed at how quick the transformation and how the other PAX motivate everyone to do their best with positive reinforcement. I think the ideal of “never leave the 6 behind” is great because it keeps everyone together (and because that was me catching up to the group in the beginning). 

Stark told me he couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to meet the PAX, and I thought that sounded crazy. Now I get it, and I find myself in the same boat looking forward to starting my day with my F3 brothers. Having just gone through Christmas, I was able to participate and to see firsthand the impact as we helped numerous families with gifts, food, and having a brighter holiday than they would have otherwise had. 

After originally joining for the 1st F, I’ve come to embrace the 2nd and 3rd and see the importance of all 3. I feel that those principles have taken what I thought was a great and complete life and improved them with things I didn’t know were missing. To anyone reading this or interested, I would tell you, I was very skeptical and didn’t want to take the leap, but my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. To paraphrase a quote from Lou Holtz’ explanation of Notre Dame to explain F3…

“For those who are a part of F3, no explanation is necessary.
Those that aren’t a part of F3, no explanation will suffice.”

Michael “Poodle” Lagger

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Story 19

Facing the Challenge
Not Alone

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

How did I get here?

The alarm is set with a “4” as the first digit and the little dot indicating PM is not illuminated. And surprisingly, I am already up, switching it off before it blurts out to disturb my wife. 

The alarm is set with a “4” as the first digit and the little dot indicating PM is not illuminated. And surprisingly, I am already up, switching it off before it blurts out to disturb my wife. 

The temperature in my closet weather station reads “3 degrees” from the sensor perched outside my window. My dog is looking at me with an expression seeming to say, “Are you really going out there this morning?” The weather app on my phone is advising strict avoidance of outdoor activities at all cost. I give myself a little reassuring chuckle, as I know what is imminent. I know in a few minutes I will be sucking in the frozen air at rates that will tempt my lungs to harden like concrete. I know my eyelids are going to need a small butane torch to unthaw before I can head back home. I know there are a dozen men in a dark parking lot with heavy metal objects, eagerly awaiting a chance to test each other’s breaking point. I can only equate the scene to a terrifying backdrop for a post-apocalyptic Hollywood flick. But here I am, excitedly debating on 4 or 5 layers for this morning’s mysterious task. In fact…I can’t wait! And I think again…How did I get here?

This awkward appreciation for discomfort is not innate in me. In fact, it is quite contradictory to most of my natural survival instincts. I spent most of my years behind the plastic shield of generations of video game consoles. Sure, I rode bikes around the neighborhood, played recreational sports, and did all those things kids do to find their way through adolescence, but I was never interested in pushing my physical limits. Heck it wasn’t until my college years that a friend showed me what a bench press was and my future wife encouraged me to strap on skis and attempt roller skating. Physical exploration of my abilities was a road not meant for me. Yet here I was, 2 pairs of gloves deep, preparing for a battle. 

Why? 

Fast-forward through a couple years post college. A healthy lifestyle made sense. To the gym we go! I got my ear buds in, music just for me, membership paid. 2 months in and still killing it. 

Feeling good. Routine is setting in. Things come up. I will get there tomorrow. Routine stalling. Hit it hard next week. Membership renewal? Ok, I guess. Feeling guilty I am not using it enough. Mediocre motivation. Nothing to strive for. 

Sound familiar? Looking good in my swimsuit was just not enough for me to keep coming back to the comfort of a climate controlled, immaculately clean, big box gym. But, risk of frostbite, slipping on ice, and slush-soaked socks were not stopping me from lacing up my trail shoes this frigid morn. What is wrong with me now? 

Nine months ago, with my wife by my side, I headed out for one of Toledo’s cultural Spring traditions, the Mud Hens home opener. The city comes out in droves to welcome the change of seasons. For most, including myself, it is more of a chance to shake the cabin fever and be “seen” and less about baseball. And here is where the “emotional headlock” happened. I ran into an acquaintance at one of the rented-out suites filled with ball park dogs, sudsy beverages, and folks more interested in a new connection than what inning we were in. And he tells me about this new “thing” just starting in town. Says I would like it. Calls it F3.

“Huh? You say prayers and do push ups? OK? I will look into it.”

“Where is it?”

“Outside?”

“What time? Ha! 7:00 on a Saturday morning?!” “OK?”

So I go home and lie in bed with my wife and type it in…“F 3 N A T I O N . C O M.” It’s all there. Exactly as he told me. I start reading about “smokefests” and “circles of trust” and “circles of  pain.” I read about nicknames and merkins. My wife and I both laugh as we scan through the lexicon of terms used to express the activities of this unique gathering of individuals. She questions my interest, but like always, she supports my endeavors. Plus, I told my acquaintance I will check it out. So I do. 

TRANSFORMATION 

Nine months ago I knew nothing of cadences. I knew nothing about merkins. I could barely get up for 7:30 AM meetings at work. Now I have to control my urge to Q the next workout to give another member of our PAX the chance to experience this gift. I lay out clothes with a fevered passion the night before. I ask for sandbags from my wife for my Christmas gift so our PAX can carry them on our Tuesday rucks. And here I am excited for what has been promised on our group chat app as “100 % chance of pain in the forecast.” What could make a reasonably sensible man be so damn excited to wake at an hour that could still be considered “night,” just to hit dangerously cold temperatures for 45 mins of burpees and lunges? …Because I wasn’t facing it ALONE. I had warriors, brothers by my side now. They put out the battle cry the night before. I knew they were going to face the challenge in the gloom the next morning, and I wasn’t about to let them face it alone. 

Here’s where the real difference manifests itself from the traditional health routine. The challenge we face together is not the workout. It is how to be a good father. How to be the best husband and raise my M on the pillar she deserves. The challenge is to lead my company and provide mentorship and career advancement for all my employees. The challenge is to make a damn difference in my community. The challenge is to open myself up to my weaknesses and to combat and embrace them. Sure, we are putting in work, battling burpee mountains, squatting until we forgot our own ages in the COT, and feeling the best we have felt physically in our lives. But that is a side effect. I often tell new guys that if they are interested in this group solely for “biceps and abs and to be a hot dad, it’s not for you.” But if you want to live third, expand your leadership to new heights, honor your wife for the angel she is, embrace every moment with your children, and surround yourself with men that will never let you face a jester alone, then welcome to F3. 

As I am writing these thoughts, with my 4-year-old son hanging on my left arm, cuddling me while he eats his cereal, my 6-year-old daughter walks through the kitchen and asks what I am doing. I tell her I am writing a story. She is very into books so I knew where this was going. “What’s it about daddy?” I tell her it is about F3 and ask her what she thinks about it. 

“It makes daddy stronger in a happy way!” 

…I don’t think I can say it better than that.

Matt “Stark” Yarder

P.S. Cooter, thanks for the EH big man. You changed my life.

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Story 18

Leading Yourself

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

-Bill George
Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

The hardest person you will ever lead is yourself. I glazed over those words as I sat in my final MBA class on leadership development. The assignment was defining what your leadership legacy will be. I had no idea…I did know that I was a young, hard charging worker bee checking off the boxes for the next promotion. I was in control, and all I needed was myself, continued determination, and hard work. The rest will take care of itself. 

That mentality can be a silent killer causing us to drift…and drift I have done for many years. Drift does not mean unsuccessful, lazy, not dependable, unfaithful, etc. To me it means unintentional. Am I being intentional with my time, talent, and treasures? Am I committed to be the best I can be each day? 

On May 13, 2017 I showed up in a parking lot with approximately 40 other men for the kickoff of F3 Toledo. What I thought would be just a good workout (and it was a serious beatdown) turned out to be so much more. 

For years, I have spent so much time and energy striving for success. In tough times, my natural tendency is to retreat with the thought that I can pull myself through it and overcome. It is a dangerous, slippery slope that causes times of high anxiety while feeling like I am “carrying the weight of the world” on my shoulders. I lose focus on relationships and leaning on people for help. I internalize everything. 

F3 has helped me see things a bit differently. It has challenged me physically beyond what I thought I was capable of, but more importantly, it has challenged me to see the interconnection and power of relationships in so many other aspects of life. I am not alone in this journey and share in the many challenges we face as men in the multiple roles we play. Each day I have the privilege to start my day with a group of men that will push me physically, mentally, and spiritually to be the best version of myself. I battle with myself every day…trying to walk the tightrope of life. I am a work in progress and perfectly imperfect. 

As a father of four, I hope my kids remember it all, but if there is just one memory I could etch into their hearts, it would be this. I want them to remember a man who was steady at the helm. Someone who gave them his best every day because not only are they entitled to that, but more importantly, they deserve it. A memory of a man like that just might come in handy someday, and I’m grateful for the F3 brothers that are pushing me to get there. 

So now it’s time to finish the assignment I started six years ago… What do I want my leadership legacy to be? There are many pages to still be written…

Matt “Ollie” Britt

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Story 17

Getting More and More
in Return

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

I was very active in my youth. Participating in gymnastics, playing baseball, street hockey, basketball, and football with friends kept me very busy. High school wasn’t much different. I had stopped with gymnastics and picked up ice hockey. The conditioning for hockey as intense. I can say that I was in pretty good shape and active throughout high school. 

Moving into college was a little different. I was not getting exercise through sports but was “working out” with jobs. I was working at UPS loading trailers while attending school. Working two jobs and attending school, I was active but not working out or deepening my fellowship or faith. I was married and had a four-month-old son at graduation. 

Fast forward 10 years – I now have four sons and a “desk” job and was not getting much exercise. Sure, I was helping out coaching the boys in soccer and baseball getting “exercise” while out there but not enough. I heard about a men’s workout group that was coming to our area called F3 from one of my son’s soccer coaches who also attends the same church. 

At first, I blew it off thinking this doesn’t pique my interest. I justified it in my head as, “I’m too busy to add anything else in my life right now.” Well a month or so passed and F3 just had their first beatdown. My brother-in-law attended and was pleased with what F3 was all about and asked me to come out to a beatdown. After hearing the time of day of the workouts, I was even less interested! However, I set my alarm for my first one on a Saturday morning. 

It was at a local high school. I pulled in the lot and saw a lot of cars and guys standing in a circle. I don’t remember the exact number of guys there, but I’m pretty sure it was in the fifties. After that hour was up, I stood in the middle of the circle and proceeded to tell everyone a little about myself to get my F3 name. As I stated earlier, I was in gymnastics in my younger days and my brother-in-law proceeds to shout out, “he used to be a gymnast.” It was then that my nickname of “Mary Lou,” after the famous Mary Lou Retton, was given. At first, I was unsettled by the name, but I have since embraced it. For the first few months, I was only attending on Saturday mornings, and I wasn’t really getting anything out of it besides a really good workout once a week. 

I believe you get out what you put into something. I wasn’t putting in a lot of effort in F3 so wasn’t getting a lot out of it. As time went on, I started going a few times during the week and attending some rucks and participating in some 2nd and 3rd F’s. I was amazed what I was getting in return when I started to put more into this program. 

I now embrace the early morning alarm, even enough to ruck in the morning before the beat down. All three F’s are important to what this program stands for. It is enriching to embrace that we all come from different backgrounds and religions, but we can come together to better ourselves. I need the accountability to work out. It’s easy to tell yourself that you need to go to the gym and workout, but it’s easier to find reasons to end up not going. 

Once you make the decision to HC (hard commit) to a workout, you better go or you will get called out by your F3 brothers. Sure, I could go to the gym by myself, but now, after F3, I don’t want to. You come to realize that the guy next to you has gone through or is going through the exact same stuff as you. Everyone attended F3 or the first time for different reasons. We stay for the same – to become the best version of ourselves as we can. We push hard in the gloom, then push hard throughout the day to be the best fathers, husbands, brothers, and leaders we can be.

Kevin “Mary Lou” Kudro

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Story 16

Moving Forward with Purpose

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

I have pretty much always been into “fitness” – from sports in school, to the military, to lifting during college. I started running shortly after my father passed away in 2013. I always told myself it was to clear my mind and give me some alone time to think through whatever was going on. Turns out, that really wasn’t the case.

I have always had friends and acquaintances – family friends, school friends, and work friends. Some felt like brothers, but through no fault of mine or theirs we all drifted from hanging out every day to the occasional text on birthdays and holidays.

I was raised in the Catholic faith, and later we moved to a non-denominational church, and eventually, I went my own way altogether. My “faith” consisted of the occasional prayer, discussions with my wife and her family, etc.

I was EH’d by Mickey and some other Toledo PAX during a 10K at Macqueen’s orchard, the last of a race series. I looked up F3 and thought it would be a cool way to work out, but I only went skin deep and then waited a couple weeks to post.

On October 23, I made my first f3 post at “the Gauntlet”. The workout was tough, but I also saw something I wasn’t expecting – a group of men busting their butts, working together, talking, laughing, busting balls – and right then I knew this was more than just a “cool workout”. I knew it was home.

As I continue to post, I continue to figure out what I was running from (Sad Clown Syndrome – and that is not a race you can win on your own), what had happened with my buddies (they were NOT big
enough grains), and what faith really means. I had discovered the “Problem”, and more importantly, I now have hope and faith that I can combat it. F3 has done more for me in these short, dark, cold months than I can hope to repay. The fellowship/brotherhood that can only be forged through suffering, celebrating, and praying together is irreplaceable. The simple act of sharing our hopes, fears, and prayers with no judgement and realizing how many of us share those same feelings and emotions is an almost indescribable feeling, but the best I can do is say it feels like a part of me that has been missing has now been replaced.

The impact goes beyond the AO’s and the COT (circle of trust) though – so much further beyond. At work and at home, so much of my thinking has been remapped towards acceleration that it is noticeable to those around me. My boss and co-workers, my wife and kids have all gone so far as to mention how much I have changed.

When you realize work isn’t your purpose, that your wife shouldn’t be your best friend (but something significantly more), and your kids are a part of your legacy so it is YOUR responsibility to show them how to become HIM’s… it’s like you are seeing the world in a whole new light. Time is a valuable and finite resource – we each only have what is allotted to us.

I used to slog my way through each day, only feeling the slightest bit of hope and manliness when I was grinding out a long run or lifting weights, but the feeling was fleeting. As soon as I returned home or to work, it was gone, baby gone.

The feeling of finding that missing purpose, of losing yourself in the gloom and being around other men who are equally finding that purpose and accelerating themselves is something every man should have in their life. Every day is now an opportunity to work towards that purpose, to improve myself or my relationships with my wife and children. To work towards leaving a legacy that serves them. It is not something to be afraid of, it is not something to pass up for a couple hours of sleep. Once you have that, you will never look at life the same.

I showed up on October 23rd looking for another “cool workout.” I left with a newfound sense of freedom, fellowship, and ultimately a new outlook on life in general.

Josh “Woodstock” Brown

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Story 15

Filling a Void

My name is Jonathan Burns; my F3 brothers know me by “Bourbon.” I’m not typically one to share my deep thoughts or emotions, but I am doing so here, in this medium, in the hopes that it might touch someone out there and help change their focus on life like F3 has done for me.

My name is Jonathan Burns; my F3 brothers know me by “Bourbon.” I’m not typically one to share my deep thoughts or emotions, but I am doing so here, in this medium, in the hopes that it might touch someone out there and help change their focus on life like F3 has done for me. 

About three years prior to joining F3, I relocated from Lexington, KY to Toledo, OH. There is the first part about F3 – your name. Get it? Bourbon = from KY and last name of Burns. OK, got that out of the way. I had lived in KY my whole life and in Lexington for the last 15 years of my life. I moved to a city where my wife and her family had roots, but I had none. I had made some friends through church, work, and my neighborhood. But not many that were deep relationships. You know, the ones that the other man isn’t afraid to call you out if he sees you going down a bad path. Not afraid to push you when you need a kick in the arse. I missed that. I needed that. I would not admit it. I may not have even known it. Nevertheless, I needed that. 

Going into F3, fitness was not a major concern. I am not the most fit person by any means, but I can hold my own. I regularly lifted in a nice warm gym and ran outside often. One day my workout buddy mentioned F3. I blew it off. I didn’t need that to stay fit; I had my comfortable routine. He kept at me and kept at me (EH’ing me as I have come to learn). Thanks Tots! So finally, one Saturday, I showed up. 

That first Saturday in early September was great. I got in a different workout than normal and met a few new guys who called each other crazy names. It was fun to do something different than my norm. I told myself that I’d make the Saturday workout a norm but keep my regular routine during the week. I ended up coming back the following Monday. It was a holiday and the gym was closed – might as well. It was The MURPH. Yes! I loved pushing myself with The Murph.

But wait, it was so much more than that. The Murph was fun. Finishing was fun. Cheering on the other guys and motivating others (including me) was the best. I didn’t give a rip how I did. Something in me switched on. I wanted to push others. I wanted to push myself to get better. And just like that I was hooked. 

Now I show up regularly. Usually five times a week. I push myself to get better. I push others to get better. They push me to get better. I share my life with my F3 brothers. They share theirs with me. We are there for each other in happy and sad times. It is a strong bond that will last for as long as you are willing to invest in yourself and others. My life has truly been changed by this group; it fills a void I didn’t know I had.

It is difficult to put into words what F3 means to me. But I will sum it up with this: I am supposed to be a loner. Now I would do almost anything for these guys I consider brothers in life. The fellowship and camaraderie is priceless. Watching yourself and your new brothers grow physically AND mentally is life changing. I know I can ask for help and have 20 guys ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. You can’t put a price on that. No gym membership or diet will give you that. This is free. This is F3. 

Jonathan “Bourbon” Burns

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Story 14

Already Exercising
but Missing Something!

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

Growing up I was very active in sports and competed into my college years. Upon graduating, I was burnt out and didn’t care if I ever saw a gym or running track again. I pretty much kept to that promise and became a very inactive guy for the next eight years. 

When I turned 30 years old, I was watching an interview with Oprah Winfrey discussing her recent completion of a marathon. I had always pictured running a marathon as a very lofty goal. I’ll admit it, that Oprah interview inspired me to get back into a fitness routine. I signed up for the Walt Disney Marathon the next day  and decided to begin my training. The experience was very rewarding as I completed the event alongside my older brother. For the next ten years, I completed 10+ marathons including qualifying for and running in the prestigious Boston Marathon. Other more challenging races followed – a 50 and 100-mile ultra-marathon. 

Late in my 30’s, I decided to compete in a handful of Ironman triathlons (70.3 & 140.6). I quickly determined that while I was a decent runner, my swimming and cycling ability were less than desirable. The breaststroke technique for a 2.4-mile swim is neither efficient or pretty. 

I love the sense of community created by a running or triathlon event. These athletes are extremely supportive of one another. It’s also great to see friends and family cheering on complete strangers throughout the events. The adrenaline rush of competing in the races is unbelievable, but then the day ends and it’s over. The weeks of training leading up to the race were once a hassle but now are looked back on fondly. The shiny medal now sits in a bedside drawer collecting dust. These events filled the void of my fitness need and provided a great sense of accomplishment, but they kept me wanting something more. 

Now, I’m 42 years old and happily married to my wife of 18 years with four healthy and happy kids. My life is rewarding with time spent focused around my kid’s activities and interests. My best  friends are parents whose children participate in the same sports or activities as mine. Interests amongst the parents seem to vary, so the focus of our relationship and discussions is on our kids and their performance in the game or activity of the day. Once the sport season or activity runs its course, then those friendships typically dwindle and die. I just don’t have the excess time and haven’t spent the effort to keep those relationships alive. 

Earlier this past summer, I was walking the dog in the neighborhood along with my oldest daughter. We moved over as a car slowly passed to exit the neighborhood. The car quickly did a U-turn and began to approach us. The window slowly rolled down, and I recognized my neighbor of fifteen years. We’ve been very cordial with one another through the years but never had any friendship beyond a quick hello in passing. My neighbor began to explain a new fitness group for men that would be starting within the next month in Toledo. The immediate internal reaction was a high-level of skepticism. How much would this new fitness group cost? What is my neighbor trying to sell me here? 

The kickoff weekend of F3 Toledo happened to be an open spot on my kid’s activity schedule (very rare with 4 going at once). I decided that I would attend the first workout only out of respect for my neighbor’s invitation. The timing of the invitation was good, my fitness routine was irregular at best, and I didn’t have anything scheduled on the calendar to get me off the couch. The first workout included exercises I hadn’t done in years. Exercises with funny names performed by the entire group in cadence. The Cleveland division had come down to lead the first beatdown and called each other by nicknames. They appeared to be enjoying this stressful workout while I struggled greatly. They joked and laughed with each other while I remained silent hoping the workout would end soon. When the sixty minutes came to an end, the group gathered in the Circle of Trust. Each of us Friendly New Guys (FNGs) were given a nickname and welcomed into F3 and invited for coffee and bagels following. 

I reflected on that first day that night at home. This opportunity was different from what I had been chasing the past several years. There was a sense of belonging that I had not felt since being on a team while in high school and college. I missed that. There was a chance to build direct, lasting friendships not based on my children’s activities. An opportunity to create a social life in the early morning hours of which I was normally passed out in bed. 

This new schedule would not conflict with my family or work life. F3 would remove the constant starting and stopping of exercising for the next run on the calendar. The accountability to get out of bed and workout with my F3 brothers was something I badly needed. Sleeping in has taken a back seat to avoid the friendly ribbing for missing a workout. 

Seven months have passed since we’ve started this journey. I’ve never been as consistent with my fitness schedule in my life since my school days. Some days are harder than others to get out of bed, but that is minor to the post beatdown rewards physically and emotionally. I’ve become a better husband, father, and friend relieved from some of the daily stress. The friendships that have been created are more genuine and deep as we all strive to be better men. I’m thankful for the invitation to join this group that is open to all men.

Jon “OZ” Newsom

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Story 13

From Divorced to I’m Normal!?

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

At the age of 46 in 2016, I had just completed my divorce after 20 years of marriage. I had a new outlook on life and knew the importance of making good choices. Connect with my high school buddies and spend money at the bar or join them in some of their bad habits? Hook up with every female I can and shake off the 20 years of monogamy? Nope! I knew I was better than all that, and I needed to make the right choices…which can be tough in this world we live! 

In March of 2016, I got involved with a group of men through my church. Over the course of the next 15 months, we met regularly and grew spiritually! One of my brothers mentioned crossfit workouts he did at a gym called Extreme Fitness by Vince. After attending 8 – 10 of these workouts, the interest quickly died off. Then in May 2017 another brother mentioned a new group called F3, and I joined a 6:30 AM Saturday morning workout with 40 other men. I attended a few Saturday workouts and joked about the timing of the 5:30 AM weekday workouts. I used to say the only thing I do at 5:30 AM during the week is take a leak, fluff my pillow, and crawl back in bed! 

Now I am hooked! By the count of my weasel shaker (F3 name for the guy who does our statistics), I have posted close to 70 workouts, am down 15 pounds, and replaced fat with muscle! The workouts are always outside, and if you would have told me I would be working out outside in weather below zero degrees, I would have said, you’re crazy! 

Here is a little of what I have experienced with F3:

  • I’ve experienced the support of 30+ men encouraging me to give a little more when my mind is telling me there is no more! There is typically 40% left in the tank at that time!

    I’m far more physically strong!
  • I’ve shared my vulnerability in the COT (circle of trust) at the end of each beat down and have learned that the burdens I carry are no different than every other man around me!

    I am normal!
  • I’ve gained hundreds of friends throughout Northwest Ohio. It is rare to attend an event and not run into and F3 brother!

    Friendship!
  • I’ve gained a routine I like. Once my workout is complete, I grab a hot shower, get ready for work and read my devotional and Bible until it’s time to head to work!

    I am spiritually stronger!
  • I’ve supported the community by joining my F3 brothers on providing presents during Christmas, coats for the homeless and other worthy causes!

    I am more generous!
  • I’ve helped my fellow F3 brothers through their divorce, the loss of loved ones, the help with teenage children!

    I am more supportive!
  • I’ve left it all on the AO (area of operation) with nothing to fear! Always afraid of coming in last in everything before F3, I know the workouts are me vs. me! If there is something I cannot physically do, I modify! If there is something I am slower than the others to complete, my faster F3 brothers return and complete with me! No man is left behind!

    I trust more!
  • I’m given the opportunity to lead and develop leadership skills!

So, what does F3 mean to me? Physical strength, vulnerability, friendship, spirituality, generosity, brotherly support, community involvement, trust, leadership, and I’m normal! 

Iron Sharpens Iron! I know F3 is an effective use of my time! See you tomorrow at 5:30 AM somewhere in the gloom…I’ll be there!

John “Worm” Kevern

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Story 12

My New Band of Brothers

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

Band of Brothers is a term that is normally associated with the military. The basis comes from the fact as a military unit you become so close to those guys fighting and training that they become like family to you. That brotherhood is what makes leaving the military so difficult for many veterans. You lose the sense of purpose you had when you wore the uniform as you realize that you are no longer a defender of freedom. You also miss that feeling of knowing that your band of brothers have your back no matter what. That is a very powerful thing. 

I struggled with that very thing. I got out of the military in 2006 and went to college. Along the way, I got married, bought a house, and started a family. I also slowly watched my weight creep from 220 lbs. To nearly 300. One day in 2016, I came to the conclusion that I should be a lot happier than I was. I have a beautiful wife, two adorable little girls, a nice house in the suburbs, a well-paying job, and a family that loves me. I realized what I didn’t have was a purpose. I was also out of shape, and I felt like my weight was holding me back from being all that God wanted me to be. 

I started F3 on June 6, 2017 and hit my 100th post on December 16, 2017. F3 has been awesome. I have met so many high impact men (HIM) through F3. It is a group of men that makes you want to keep pushing yourself to be a better man yourself. 

Churches always push men’s groups and men’s retreats, but they also need to push F3. Get guys out of their comfort zones and watch how they change and grow. F3 has also revealed that I have a passion for helping my fellow veterans. We have been able to raise money to send care packages to troops in Afghanistan, and my fellow brothers have also stepped up to collect food,toiletries,  and other personal care items to ship as well. F3 Toledo is doing great things, and I am privileged to be a part of it.

“Bluto”

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Story 11

Helping Men Be
Better Versions of Themselves

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

I have been part of F3 since June 2017. It changed my life for the better and I didn’t even realize I needed a change. I am so grateful for The Colonel, Klinger, Brute, and Pixar for bringing F3 to Toledo, Ohio and to my friend, Froman for introducing it to me. It has truly been more than a workout. 

I remember when I first heard about F3. It was mid-May 2017. Froman and I were helping setup for a festival at our church. He was telling me about this workout that he had gone to the weekend before. It sounded like a really tough workout. And they started at what I thought was pretty early in the morning for a  Saturday, 7 AM. Then, he started to tell me about this thing called a Ruck which they did that at 5:15 AM during the week. It sounded interesting. But, I was a night owl. There was no way I could get up in time for a 5:15 AM workout. It sounded kind of cool but kind of crazy at the same time. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I started to have a conversation with myself about why I couldn’t get up that early, let alone go work out. Over the years, I had tried working out at different times of day. I felt sluggish in the morning, rushed over lunch, and couldn’t fit it in after work. This F3 thing just didn’t sound like it would be for me. But, there was this nagging feeling that I should give it a try. There was no way I was going to start on a Saturday when they had boot camp style workouts. I was too out of shape. But, the Ruck was just a little walk through some neighborhoods with a little weight on our back. I could do that, I thought to myself. So, I decided I would give the ruck a try. 

I attempted to go to my first Ruck in late May 2017. My alarm blared at 4:45 am that morning. I woke up, turned off the alarm, and went back to bed. It was way too early for me. Two weeks later, I decided to try again. This time when I woke up, I stayed awake. On June 15, 2017, I went to my first F3 workout, a Ruck of a little less than 4 miles, with some core work every half mile. It felt great. The guys were very welcoming. I got an F3 nickname, Ticket. I learned that the two other guys that posted that day and I were the 100th men to post to an F3 workout in Toledo. It had been just over a month since F3 had started in Toledo. Everyone was full of energy and enjoying being out early in the morning on a beautiful day. I was hooked. 

After a slow start, I began to post regularly in July. The workouts were led by someone different every time. There was no routine. I didn’t know what exercises we were going to do next or how many reps we were going to do. My body just had to adapt. There were guys at the workouts with all levels of fitness, from super-fit to out of shape (me). While everyone struggled to some degree, some struggled more than others. All the while, the guys that were handling it well encouraged those who were struggling. If one of us on the “struggle bus” fell behind, someone would fall back to pick us up. No man left behind. 

Getting back out to the next workout became easier and easier. The guys I shared the morning “gloom” with helped keep me to be accountable to myself in trying to get in shape. I was also meeting new people. We would grab a bite to eat after some workouts, and we’d get to know each other a little better. There were guys at the workouts with all levels of fitness, from super-fit to out of shape. 

At some point, an old injury began to flare up, and I found myself unable to join in the workouts. I ended up having a meniscus tear. I knew I should stay away, but I missed hanging with the guys. For 3-4 months, I would find myself trying to find an excuse to get back out there every now and then. The guys would check in, wish me a speedy recovery, tell me to be smart, and heal up. But, those bonds I had started to form kept drawing me back out. 

It was during my injury, and seeking a way to stay connected to the group, that I stumbled upon a way to help the group in my own way with or without an injury. We had just had a local news team out to do a story on our local F3 group. A few of us went to a local sports bar to watch the segment. One of the guys asked about whether we had a mailing list. I didn’t think anything of it in the moment. But, a day or two later I started to think about compiling a list and then tracking who was going to workouts. I reached out to Colonel, and he said one of the guys was starting to do just that. I reached out to him to get a look at what he had done so far, and I knew this was something that was needed.

After a couple of weeks working together to build out the tracker, and getting caught up on old workouts, we were ready to start tracking on a go forward basis. We began to publish reports of who was working out the most, how many workouts were happening around the area each month, and how many new guys were working out each month. Immediately, the sports nerd in  many of the guys started coming out. They loved the stats. Over time, they would reach out to find out their individual stats. The stats were not only providing good information to organize and plan, but also additional motivation for some of the guys. Without being out there working out with them, I was helping guys to improve themselves. Also, in tracking the stats, I was beginning to learn new things that could help me professionally. Things I wanted to learn but was not feeling inspired or motivated to learn. 

As the holiday season approached, the group really began to look beyond the workouts. There were several guys that led efforts to contribute to the community and beyond. There was an event with proceeds going to the troops, gift drives for a local hospital, blanket donations for a local homeless shelter, and people shoveling driveways for neighbors. All of this was inspired by men that had been touched by F3. 

That is ultimately what I love about F3. It is more than a workout… much more. It is truly fitness, fellowship, and faith. It is beyond a doubt a workout that is as hard as you want to make it. But, it is also accountability to yourself and others to follow through on commitments. It is a leadership development group. It is the camaraderie that comes with guys you can count on. It is inspiration. It is motivation. It is doing something bigger than yourself. It is contributing to your community. It is all of that…but most of all, it is truly a gift that needs to be shared with people that don’t even realize they need it. One of the best decisions I have made in my life was the decision to wake up, stay awake, and get in a workout one summer morning. It changed my life.

Jason “Ticket” Ziegler

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